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Household Chemicals Linked to Arthritis in Women

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"Our hormone systems are incredibly delicate and can be thrown off by tiny doses of hormone-disrupting chemicals," Uhl said. "And processes like inflammation and cartilage repair are associated with our hormones, and are also associated with osteoarthritis."

Whatever the culprit, Uhl cautioned that the problem is likely to persist for years to come despite a safety-driven downward trend in global PFOA/PFOS use.

"Once they get into the environment they just don't go away," she noted. "In people, they last years. So even if we were to reduce the use of these chemicals right away, they're still going to be around and in our bodies for a long time," she explained.

"Not being exposed is not an option, which is frustrating," Uhl added. "But as consumers, I would say that one of the best things to do is to lead a healthy lifestyle, and get exercise and eat well. Because we're finding that those steps can reduce susceptibility to factors that are outside our control."

Commenting on the study, Dr. Joseph Guettler, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., suggested that PFC exposure should be put in context as one of a wide number of variables that can potentially drive osteoarthritis risk.

"There's genetics, weight and obesity, and previous injuries," he noted. "There are some people who are biomechanically built in a certain way that predisposes them. And then others with certain [jobs] who put a lot of wear and tear on their body," Guettler pointed out.

"And now this study seems to add an environmental factor, PFCs, to the list of traditional risk factors," he continued.

"The fact that they didn't find this association among men surprises me," Guettler added. "They hypothesize that this may be due to hormonal differences, but I would expect that the main mechanism for PFCs influencing osteoarthritis would be through their effect on the inflammatory process. Because PFCs have been linked to inflammation, and we are well aware that inflammation has a significant negative impact on cartilage. So there definitely needs to be more research."

More information

For more on PFCs, visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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